My name is Chris, and every year, Obamacare screws me over royally.
Whew. Feels good to finally get that off my chest. I’ve been reluctant to say it aloud — even to friends and colleagues — out of fear of being branded a teller of tall tales, or worse.
My guess is that few people want to hear my story. We all would like to believe that the Affordable Care Act is making people’s lives better. And in many cases, it undoubtedly is.
But for millions of people like me, Obamacare is a nightmare. My experience helps illustrate how a well-intentioned piece of legislation can blow up in the faces of innocent victims, causing collateral damage that inflicts more scars with each passing year.
How has Obamacare left me feeling sick? Let me count the ways:
My premiums have skyrocketed
In 2013, I had an individual policy that I purchased directly from a health insurance company. That was the final year before the government mandated that all health insurance plans must be Obamacare-compliant. My health insurance premium was $112.58 a month.
Earlier this week, I received a renewal notice that my monthly premium for 2018 — my fifth year on Obamacare — will be $433.58.
That’s a jump of about 286 percent in five short years, folks.
I might be able to get a slightly better deal for 2018 by shopping around. But there is no escaping the fact that my health care costs have leapt every year that Obamacare has been in place.
In fact, if my premium continues to increase by the same rate over the next five years, my monthly cost will jump to $1,240.03 by 2023.
Alas, as someone who makes well north of the poverty line — but, it should be noted, considerably south of six figures — I have never come close to qualifying for the government subsidy that supposedly has made such soaring health insurance costs acceptable.
I pay for coverage I don’t want or need
Why have my premium costs risen so outrageously over the past few years? One reason is Obamacare’s insistence that I pay for things I don’t want or need.
Under my pre-Obamacare plan, I was willing to give up a handful of perks — including mental health, chemical dependency and prescription drug coverage — in return for a lower rate.
But that is not an option under Obamacare. Under the law, every health plan must contain a group of 10 “essential health benefits.” This can lead to some frankly ludicrous circumstances.
After signing up for my first Obamacare plan in the fall of 2013, I received a letter informing me that I was being charged an additional fee for “pediatric dental coverage.”
When I saw this, I — a single, childless man — cringed. Why would I buy such coverage? I concluded that I must have accidentally made the purchase when filling out my application form.
Hoping I could reverse the charge, I called my insurer to explain the mistake, and to beg forgiveness.
“You did nothing wrong,” I was told. “You are required to purchase pediatric dental care.”
“But I don’t have any kids,” I replied, incredulous.
It turns out that pediatric dental care is among the mystical “essential health benefits” that must be part of every health insurance plan. By law, I am required to purchase it, so my insurer enrolled me automatically.
This means I have dental coverage for my nonexistent children, even though I do not have dental coverage for myself.
By law, I also am required to carry maternity coverage for my nonexistent wife.
So, my imaginary family is well-covered. In some ways, they are better covered than I am.
My choice of doctors has collapsed
One of the most underreported facts about Obamacare is that these health plans tend to have narrow networks that restrict the choice of medical providers.
During my second year under Obamacare, I developed a persistent pain in my left shoulder. After several months of discomfort, I decided to see my primary care doctor. He suggested I visit with an orthopedist and recommended several names.
None were in my Obamacare plan’s network.
At the time, I was living in South Florida. I had befriended many seniors during my part-time gig working as a fitness instructor at the YMCA. Several of these older friends had health problems that required them to see an orthopedist at one time or another. From their recommendations, I compiled a list of an additional half-dozen doctors.
None were in my plan’s network.
Defeated, I finally looked at the list of the doctors in my network and chose a name at random. On the day of the appointment, the physician entered the examination room wearing what appeared to be alligator-skin boots.
For a boy raised in the buttoned-down Midwest, this didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
In the end, the doctor referred me to a physical therapist, and all worked out fine. Score one for Obamacare, I guess.
However, this lack of choice is another of my major gripes about Obamacare.
And yet …
Obamacare largely has been a disaster for me. But despite that fact, I remain a reluctant — OK, a very reluctant — supporter of the program.
The Affordable Care Act has done some key things right. For example, it protects people with pre-existing conditions, ensuring they have access to health insurance. It also prohibits insurers from capping the amount of services you can receive over your lifetime.
These are important achievements. I have no desire to see the nation return to its pre-Obamacare days.
And yet, something must be done for people like me and millions of others who are watching rates skyrocket out of control.
A 2016 Gallup poll — unfortunately, largely unreported by the media — found that just 18 percent of Americans said Obamacare has helped their families. Meanwhile, 29 percent said Obamacare has hurt their families.
I’d love to see Congress address this reality and fix Obamacare so it will work better for more Americans. But neither Democrats nor Republicans have shown a willingness or ability to make such changes happen.
So, my hope for a better Obamacare remains on life support, and my wallet continues to languish in intensive care. Whether either will ultimately survive is anyone’s guess.
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